Meet Author Danielle Benji

Hello again, everyone! Hoping you all had a fantastic Memorial Weekend. I'm back with the gorgeous and talented Danielle Benji, whose children's book Emily Discovers Psychology is available now on multiple platforms.

Tell us about your book, Emily Discovers Psychology.
Emily Discovers Psychology opens up with a girl “Emily” who looks at a commercial on TV about bullying and how kids like her can prevent it. She becomes very interested in the subject and eager to learn more about it. After getting advice from her parents, Emily finds out that one of her classmates named “Mitchell” is a victim of bullying. Using her parents’ advice, she becomes friends with Mitchell, but she is puzzled . Emily begins her quest for answers and discovers the career of psychology.


Bullying and Asperger's are both heavy, important subjects, but you found a way to make them easily understood by children. What drove you to tackle these topics in that way, with youngsters as your audience?
At the time Autism was a very hot topic in the news especially with the Sandy Hook incident where they released a statement saying he had Asperger's, and the media linking autism to violence. I wanted to help clarify that their is no link between Asperger's Autism, and violence. A year ago my spouse was diagnosed with Asperger's, and I decided to release the book I wrote on the topic. I wrote it from a child's perspective because I wanted children and their parents to get a better understanding of this condition because there isn't enough acceptance.  Also, bullying affects everyone, and I thought maybe if I reach the younger generation it's one step closer to stopping it with them.


Regarding the stunning illustrations in your book, did you do them yourself or did you work closely with an illustrator? If the latter, what was the experience like?
No, I didn't do the illustrations, but I hired a very talented one name Kalifia. I loved working with her. She is so pleasant and professional. It was almost like she knew exactly what I wanted when it came to the details, and emotions, and the characters. I wanted to display in the book because I wanted the readers to feel the emotions of the characters in the book.

A quick look at your bio is enough to show anyone that you're a woman of many talents. Do you still pursue artistic endeavors outside of writing?
Back in 2012, I sung the introduction for a local artist on their album back in 2012. As of today I'm more focused on my writing.

You're also a mother, aren't you? How does your toddler react to mommy's books?
Yes, I'm a proud mommy of a very smart two old little girl named Alicia. When she sees Emily she instantly yells "Emily!" in excitement no matter where she sees her - on the computer screen, or the actual book. I think she is very proud of me, because she also says "Mommy's Book!"

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
The advice I can give them is if you choose to go through a traditional publisher and it doesn't work out, it's not the end of the road for you as a writer. You self-publish your books, and it's not going to be easy because noting is, but at least your words will be read. Also, before going through with any of those options do a lot of research. Just don't don't jump into these without the prior knowledge.


What's next on your schedule? Do you plan to take Emily through more learning experiences?
My books are about different career professions, so Emily will definitely learn a lot about about life and what it has to offer while learning about these different careers. The next book will possibly be about something in the photography field. I can't reveal much, lol.

You're very open about living with Cerebral Palsy. How old were you when you were diagnosed and how did it change your perspective?
I was two when I diagnosed with a mild Cerebral Palsy. I pretty much had a normal childhood. I could walk, but it was a little different then the other kids. Of course, I have gotten bullied for it in school, but I stood up for myself, and my parents never knew about it because I was raised to hold my head up high and be proud of who I was, despite my CP.  I had the support of my parents who loved me. I also believe in a higher being who watches over me, and made a promise of  human perfection at the time. Despite my challenges, which are very little, I'm a published author. I have a loving little family as well as extended family support.

If you could change one thing about your writing career thus far, what would it be?
I would like to be best-selling on Amazon. I think all authors would love that, but other than that I love what I'm doing, and I do have high hopes for my future.

Most important question: ninjas or pirates? 
I would have to say ninjas, lol.




You can connect with Danielle on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or on her website.

Vivienne's Review of Emily Discovers Psychology

For a children's book to delve so intelligently into a serious topic is a rare thing indeed. Not only does "Emily Discovers Psychology" deal with bullying and Asperger's (a specific form of Autism), it teaches children of the importance of psychology as a profession. Emily herself makes for a wonderful role model -- empathetic, thoughtful, and quick to communicate with the most helpful grown-ups in her life. An important read for any child. And any parent, for that matter!

Letting the Dandelions Grow

When we first purchased our updated farmhouse in the foothills, the yard was a disaster. Having sat on the market for quite some time with no one in the house to see to its upkeep, much of the acreage had reverted to sagebrush and knotweed. Only one small patch of grass remained beneath the struggling apple and plum trees in the triangular front yard. You may question our logic but after seven years on a stifling suburban lot, we were over the moon with the prospect of transforming this neglected property into something spectacular.

That first year couldn't have been more rewarding. We purchased hose and shrubs and a stable lawn tractor. I became an avid gardener, growing everything from seed and soliciting oohs and ahhs from people who'd "never seen anyone have that much luck with tomatoes before! Wow!" That small patch of grass grew to encompass an acre, surrounding the house with a luxurious blanket of green in an area that rarely saw enough rain to keep the mountains from shriveling in on themselves.

All of that changed when I fell ill the following year.

Not in the gee, it's the flu again sense of the word, but rather in the dragging your family to the emergency room at two in the morning because the pain scares you that much sense of the word. Months of uncertainty and testing and pointless medication would later reveal that my guts had flat stopped doing the job of digestion, leaving me with massive inflammation and infection throughout my esophagus and upper stomach. It was a year of constant discomfort. Nausea to pain to immobility and back again. Overtaken by my own weakness, my struggles with agoraphobia intensified until I wasn't leaving the house, even on the days when the discomfort was minimal enough to allow it. My husband's fourteen-hour workdays left him unable to care for both a sick wife and an ailing yard. So our green oasis faded until it was anything but. The shrubs died. The grass grew sparse. The few tomatoes I'd transferred to my once-loved garden were so quickly scorched and shriveled that I lost the will to even attempt to care for them. But the worst was the dandelions.

In our old suburban neighborhood, dandelions had not been tolerated. A dandelion was a badge of shame, the surest sign that the homeowner couldn't be bothered to care for their lawn with the proper chemicals and twice-a-day mowing that one expects from a dignified and decent conformist. Upon seeing just one, neighbors would walk by and shake their heads, even slowing in their cars as they passed to subtly notify the homeowner of their disapproval. Armed with this backlog of judgment, where every unfinished chore on our new homestead was a screaming reminder of my uselessness, it was the dandelion takeover that really twisted the blade of disgrace.

How small and helpless I became. How ineffective. I was a burden, incapable of contributing or controlling any part of my life. And damn those weeds for reminding me of that.

One day, as I was returning from dropping off my boy at the school bus stop, four miles down the road, I found myself halting in the middle of our long driveway, astonished to see that our unkempt yard had become a moving sea of yellow. For a moment, I wondered whether those blasted dandelions had multiplied and mutated into spastic dance choreographers, but no. Our yard was covered -- absolutely covered -- in goldfinches.

Dozens upon dozens of them. Golden feathers glowing in the sunrise, they gobbled up the dandelion seeds and chirped one to another as if coordinating a symphony. I turned off the car and watched them flit about the work of cleaning the yard that I could no longer tend on my own. Tears filled my eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Had I been robbing myself of this all these years? In a rush to control, to tidy nature's corners into what I'd foolishly thought to be dignified and decent, had I been keeping its most beautiful offerings at bay?

They stayed for nearly a week, those gorgeous angels of nature. And they left when the dandelions did. I was sad to see them go, but grateful for the work they had done. More than that, I was grateful for the lesson that maybe, just maybe, burdensome-ness isn't such a concrete thing. Maybe dignity is in the eye of the beholder. It was a lesson that was driven home again in the fall, when my inability to clear the fallen apples from the ground drew a herd of deer onto our property. Once again, nature took care of itself, gracefully and without any help at all from me.

Actual photo from our front yard.

Though I've now found a fantastic doctor and am healthy enough to attack the yardwork with all the vigor I ever had, I make it a point to leave the dandelions alone. And when the apples come down in the fall, I let them lie as well. Because it took falling ill with uselessness to realize something that my desperate need for potency wouldn't let me see.

Sometimes in life, the weeds serve a purpose. Sometimes the rotten apples aren't so rotten after all. 

And sometimes, the silver linings even come with wings.





Why I Will Always Love Print, as Well as My Mom ~ (Yes, the Two are Connected)

When I was very small, I checked out a certain book from the school library. It was a thin paperback with beautiful illustrations and whimsical themes -- kings and quests and a talking wolf. I loved that book. So much so that I didn't return it for weeks, checking it out again and again until they'd allow it no more. At which point, I racked up an impressive fine. (Well, as impressive a fine as a school is willing to levy on a seven-year-old.)

My mother could have gotten angry. She could have chastised me and given a lecture on respecting deadlines or knowing when to let go of something that wasn't mine to keep. Instead, on the night before it was to be returned, she sat down at the typewriter and copied the text, word for word, leaving room on each page for the illustrations, which she also drew by hand. I don't know how late she stayed up. I only know that, the next morning, I had my very own copy waiting for me on the kitchen table.

Across the years, I'm sad to say that my cherished, by-hand book was lost a page at a time. But the story didn't end there.

When I became a mother myself, she went looking for that book. It took several false purchases and nearly a year to find the right title, but find it she did. And once again, I had my tale of whimsy and talking wolves -- this time, to share with my own child. I still love that book. It holds a prominent place on my son's bookshelf, facing outward, where I can see it from the doorway anytime I wish.


Had this situation taken place today, it would have been a simple matter of looking up the title online and downloading a copy before returning that thin paperback. There would have been no years-long search, no page by page reminder that stories matter and that mothers will do anything for their children, sacrificing sleep and time and money they didn't necessarily have to spare. And though I am now an indie writer who publishes primarily in the e-market, printed books will always be important to me in a way that's difficult to describe without getting a little teary.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Go buy this book.




Meet Author D. M. Jarrett

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit of a science fiction fan. The 80s weren't nice to me as a result, but geeks run the world these days, so who's having the last laugh now, Susanna Helmsworth?*

(*The names of certain bullies have been changed to allow for the fact that they were just kids, and probably grew up to be awesome people with whom I'd now love to watch the upcoming Star Trek film. Assuming they're willing to realize its epic-ness. And that being a nerd is now the thing. And that my hair totally does not "do that weird flippy thing" that makes me "look like an uneven haystack in a flannel shirt." Eat your words and we can talk, not-Susanna.)

Ahem. Anyway... I'm thrilled to welcome young adult/sci-fi adventure writer and fellow Whovian, D.M. (David) Jarrett, to this little blog o' mine.

Mr. Jarrett, welcome! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I'm David Jarrett author of the Sean Yeager Adventures book series. As well as writing I support Liverpool FC, play tennis, listen to music and catch films whenever I can. I enjoy Doctor Who, Star Wars and Top Gear among other things.

Tell us about your Aenathen series: Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief and Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted.
Sean Yeager began as a series of short stories. I liked the idea of an accidental hero who has his life turned upside down. During the series Sean learns about himself, his father and The Foundation. It's gradually revealed that his cosy little world is far more dangerous than he ever imagined.

With the series I wanted to write about how action, sci-fi adventures and real life collide. So in this series the hi-tech gear goes wrong from time to time. Also the heroes make mistakes and are sometimes impeded by their co-workers. I write visually as far as possible. I also try to plot as if the stories are films with lots of twists. I guess that's how my brain works really.

The first book - DNA Thief - is like an introduction to Sean Yeager's world and is pretty fast paced and full on. The second book - Hunters Hunted - introduces Emily as a co-conspirator. It's still action packed, but has scenes that are more reflective and almost supernatural in places.

Illustration of Agent Rusham by Joel Carpenter
You collaborate with illustrator Joel Carpenter to create the images around your series. How did that relationship come about and what makes it a good fit?
Joel is a very talented artist and helped me to visualise so many things about Sean Yeager's world. We met up and talked about what I was trying to do, which was originally a picture book. During the creative process I realised that I was headed for novels instead and so we adapted the usage and emphasis of the work. I would still love to do a graphic novel for both books and Joel is at the top of my list.

It's funny I think things about the stories evolved in my head partly through seeing Joel's work. I would suggest a brief and provide an outline sketch and then Joel would come back with some far better ways of composing the ideas. Some panels were very quick to agree and some took a lot of kicking around. I probably drive Joel nuts at times. (Sorry Joel.)

The majority of Joel's SYA artwork is displayed on www.SeanYeager.com.

Your books feature an intelligent vehicle named Hermes. What was the inspiration for that?
I'm very interested in hi-tech vehicles generally, including cars. Within the first two books there are loads of gizmos and some serious hardware. Hermes came about as a decision to follow in the tradition of Thunderbirds, James Bond, UFO and the like. All these series have great vehicle designs and a toy range to match.

The aim with Hermes was to design a concept of a car that could fly, swim and drive. The idea being that alien technology has been hidden inside a seemingly ordinary looking sports car. The design itself took a lot of head scratching and eventually Joel and I came up with something I really do think could be built, at least as a road car.

What's next for Sean Yeager?
I have an outline plot for six books and I'm working on the detailed plot for book 3, Claws of Time. I won't give away any spoilers, but suffice to say it starts on a personal level and becomes a blockbuster style action story. Much like the first two books in fact and the themes really broaden out.

Do you have a favorite moment from your books, or a scene you're most proud to have written?
I like the fact that each of my beta readers has pointed out different parts of the books that they have enjoyed. On one level the Sean Yeager books are action shoot-outs and yet there are plenty of deeper strands in there as well.

I particularly enjoyed writing the scenes for Sean and Emily, because of the banter between them. I visualised a brother and sister teasing each other. Also, the action scenes seem to quicken the pulse on read back, which I take as a good sign.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes there's so much. A few pointers are:

1) Write often and expect to re-write drafts at least once, if not twice.
2) Know your target readers and give them (almost) what they want.
3) Find helpers for covers, proofing and editing. It is too much to do it all by yourself.

What is your favorite sci-fi television show, current or cancelled?
My current favourite is Doctor Who, because of the production and writing standards. I'm still pretty sore that a show called Defying Gravity was cancelled because I loved it and wanted to see where it was heading.

If you could trade places with any fictional character for one day, whom would you choose and why?
Harry Potter. He has a stick that can do almost anything, an invisibility cloak and some cool friends. What more could you ask for? Well yes, you could probably do without the Dark Lord trying to kill you all the time and Harry should probably borrow Hermes for a while. But then there's always that time turner to sort things out isn't there?

Otherwise, I'd like to be one of the pilots in Sean Yeager because of their cool gear.

Aliens crash in your backyard and offer to take you with them when repairs are finished. Do you go or do you stay?
It depends. If they are called the Vuloz I run a mile. If they are humanoid and I get to drive, I'm out of here!

Ninjas or pirates?
Ninjas with jet packs.

See, that answer nearly got you banned. But then you added the jet packs. I can't argue with jet packs. Where can readers find out more about the Sean Yeager books?
If you google Sean Yeager Adventures, there are snippets, reviews, pictures and articles all over the web. The website is at http://www.seanyeager.com.

The e-books are available in all reader formats and Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief is currently available in print. From mid-summer we plan to release both Sean Yeager books in print via all major online outlets.

Mr. Jarrett, thank you so much for visiting us.
Thanks for interviewing me.

About the books:
Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief
The first thrilling adventure in the Sean Yeager series.

A teen action, adventure, quest, thriller; with spies, aliens, robots, commandos and a whole host of gizmos and gear.

(Written for fans of Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Star Wars, Men in Black and James Bond)

This is the Brigadier, don’t just sit there jump to it! Krankhausen’s on the loose again and we need your help to track him down. While you’re at it find out what’s so special about this Sean Yeager. Yes you may borrow a Foundation vehicle but Professor Quark wants it back in one piece do you hear? Oh and keep Mrs Yeager at arm’s length, she’s still upset about her missing husband. Don’t involve the police either they’re not too keen on our carrying weapons ever since we blew up that island, I mean building. Yes you can call in the Commandos if you need them, but don’t vaporise anything or anyone important. I’ve a very prestigious opera gala to attend and I could do without any embarrassing questions. Still here? Call yourself a Field Agent?

'Deserves to be read'
‘Rocket-fuelled mayhem that keeps you guessing to the last page.’
‘A roller coaster ride of surprises.’


Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted
The second exciting episode in the Sean Yeager Adventures series.

A teen, action, adventure, thriller; with sci-fi, spies, aliens, robots, clones and commandos. Hunters Hunted is a mystery quest set in a near real world.

Sean Yeager is moved to a secure mansion surrounded by forest for his own protection. He soon becomes bored and plots ways of meeting his friends and keeping himself amused. He meets Emily, who is also living at the safe house, and hears of a legendary treasure. Without realising the approaching danger they decide to search for the treasure, which is calling to Sean in his dreams. During his stay he meets a collection of new characters and bio-robots, but who can he trust? And will Sean and Emily succeed in finding the mysterious treasure before they themselves are captured?